Supersonic Rolls


The sun sets on Concorde in 2003 (Photo: David Apps)

Rolls-Royce want us to know that they are ready for when a supersonic business jet manufacturer knocks on their door.

Internally the company has done a lot of work to see how big the market will be. And although they are not able to give a number, they do believe that the market will be big enough for them to enter.

Not only does Rolls-Royce believe that the market will be big enough, they also believe that they are in the best position to be able to provide an engine capable of flying supersonic speeds.

They are the only engine manufacturer with commercial supersonic experience, having supplied the Olympus engines that powered the Concorde.

Currently the company defines the market into two different segments. The first is a pure supersonic aircraft, and the second is a category of aircraft that flies at sub-sonic speeds most of the time, but also has the capability of flying supersonic when needed.

Rolls-Royce believe that the second category of aircraft is the one that will be available first, as it will take many years to change the rules and legislation that will allow an aircraft to fly supersonic over land. Not only from a governmental standpoint, but also from having the technology in place to mitigate the effects of the sonic boom and its associated sounds waves.

Aerion fit into the first category. The AS2 will be able to fly at Mach 1.2 without creating a sonic boom (depending on air temperature and wind), and fly at transonic speeds at other times. Once the aircraft is over open water it will be able to fly at Mach 1.5.

Spike Aerospace take a different path and say that the noise associated with their S-512 will be about as loud as a low clap, even when travelling at its top speed of Mach 1.8.

The websites of both manufacturers say that the engines required to power the aircraft will be 20,000 lbf or less. Aerion’s AS2 will have three engines each capable of producing 16,000 lbf each, and Spike’s S-512 will have two producing 20,000 lbf each.

As a comparison, the final version of the four Olympus engines that powered Concorde were each capable of producing 38,050 lbf with reheat.

In its analysis of the potential market, Rolls-Royce identified several different groups that it believes could order such an aircraft. Aside from the ultra-high net worth individuals, they believe that the aircraft could be bought by small package companies who move around high value items, governments, as well as medivac and companies moving around human organs. Spike say they are have also had conversations with airlines.

Rolls-Royce also discovered that the sweet spot for the price tag of the aircraft would be between $100 – $120 million, which both Aerion and Spike fall into.

It is worth mentioning that Rolls-Royce are in constant talks with all manufacturers about all different types of engines, not just those capable of flying supersonic speeds. But if Aerion or Spike do come knocking, then Rolls-Royce say that they have the capability to build an engine.

It will not be available tomorrow though, it will likely take a few years to design and build.

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